As the Biden administration announced its plans to send 20 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines overseas while Russia and China continue to donate vaccines to other countries, the topic of vaccine diplomacy is more important than ever. At our E-talk About event, Dr. Yanzhong Huang provided context and information on the concept of “vaccine diplomacy,” its historical significance, and why countries choose to participate in vaccine diplomacy.
Dr. Huang highlighted the three major challenges that countries face in vaccine diplomacy: capacity, credibility, and competition. In terms of the country’s receiving donated vaccines, a challenge they may face is the need to abide by the influence and power of the country donating the vaccines which has led to many choosing not to accept donations. Dr. Huang believes that country’s should share vaccines if they have extra doses because it generates goodwill, restores soft power, and improves global leadership. He also shared his hopes for the US and China to work together to increase the world’s access to Covid-19 vaccines and improve health responses.
Dr. Huang is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he directs the Global Health Governance roundtable series. He is also a professor and the director for global health studies at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations. He has written extensively on China and global health in outlets including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He is an expert adviser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, where he chairs the China task force.